No. Courts frequently award at least partial custody to both parents, called “joint custody.” Joint custody takes at least one of three forms:
- Joint Physical Custody (children spend a substantial amount of time with each parent)
- Joint Legal Custody (parents share decision-making on medical, educational, and religious questions involving the children), or
- Joint Legal and Joint Physical Custody.
In every state, courts are willing to order joint legal custody. About half the states are reluctant to order joint physical custody unless both parents agree to it and appear to be able to communicate effectively and cooperate with each other. In New Mexico and New Hampshire, courts are required to award joint custody, except where the children's best interests — or a parent's health or safety — would be compromised. Many other states expressly allow courts to order joint custody, even if one parent objects to such an arrangement.
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